It was one of those bleak March days when the earth wore a perpetual frown, blackened and charred into the earth. The melting snow looked like shoe polish, mixed as it was with the grime of footprints, broken leaves, and glooped mud. The winter trees reminded Henry of black staples against the sky—the leaves had migrated south, deciding to get underfoot and be buried, incessantly, into the ground. Henry looked at his wife, Luna, and she wore the same tight-lipped expression she had worn all morning.
“Want some coffee?” he nudged his paper cup out to her, watching the steam form a boundary between their faces in the cold.
“No, Henry, I do not want any coffee,”
They continued up the mild slope, slipping occasionally on the wet ground. The leftover snow made satisfying cracks under his feet like those small poppers that kids threw on the ground or at relatives on Fourth of July evenings.
“Well it’s there,” he said, pointing to a small clearing of dead grass.
Last month, there’d been a graveyard sale. After his first heart attack back in the fall, Henry had taken the sale as some sort of cosmic sign. At some point, death becomes just another business transaction.
“The Roberts have one under a tree,” said Luna.
“I don’t want acorns falling on me when I’m grappling with eternal sleep,” Henry said.
“It’s just so…” Luna shrugged her shoulders. She was a small woman who never seemed to take up much space; she kept her hair cropped close to her ears. Pixie-like despite her seventy years, two children, and fondness for Daschunds.
“I think it’s non-refundable. Since it was on sale and all,” Henry said, looking at his wife.
“It’s fine, I guess. The Clemsons said theirs is big enough for the kids, too.”
“The Clemsons are pretentious.”
“Yeah, but wouldn’t it be nice to have Johnny and Sarah near us?”
“Unless they get a divorce. Then, that’d just be awkward.”
Luna smiled. “How much was this again?”
“Five-hundred. We had the option of monthly maintenance but that was an extra seventy and I didn’t bring the checkbook.”
“The kids can do it.”
“Picnics with grandma and grandpa every Saturday. They won’t have to pack too many sandwiches; that’s a plus. Say, I wonder what my cravings will be like when I’m dead. Will I still hate olives?”
“You’re awful,” Luna said, tugging at a tiny spike of gray behind her ear—a girlish gesture that she’d never been able to shake.
“No, really. Hear me out—what’re we going to do all day? Should I pack reading materials?”
“You’re ridiculous. They wouldn’t let you take your library to the grave.”
“People’ve taken weirder things. And why not? It’s my damn grave, it’s paid for.”
“So I’d take a few of the classics. Nothing too highbrow, of course. Don’t want to make enemies with the neighbors.”
“I could take my pottery, I guess,” Luna said, thoughtfully.
“Of course you could.”
“But the foot pedal and all wouldn’t fit.”
“Luna dear, I think death is far less literal than you think it is.”
“It’s the most literal thing there is.”
Henry eased himself to the ground, crossing his legs and remembering a vague childhood satisfaction that went along with it. His joints ached, he needed a cigarette, and he looked at his wife to join him. She sat too, straightening her legs out before her, neatly tucking the folds of her taffeta Sunday dress like fancy restaurant napkins.
“Never knew house hunting could be as simple as this,” he said.
“Mortgage free. What’ll happen to the car?”
They both looked in the direction of their ’05 Honda, electric blue because Luna said it made her feel young when she drove it.
“We aren’t supposed to worry about that kind of stuff,” he said, placing his hand on her camouflaged knee and feeling its bony imprint.
“What about Oscar? Why didn’t we get him a place, too?”
Henry looked at his wife and regretted not thinking about their dead and buried dog. He’d been an old fellow, stiff-legged, squat, graying on the tops of his ears in the most distinguished way possible.
“Can you re-locate graves like that?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t think I’d want to see what came out of the earth.”
The day was cold—in the rigid kind of way that only Southern winters afford, righteous in its weather, marking its dead with an unbridled possibility of change.